The Flight of the Maidens
Jane Gardam
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The Flight of the Maidens

Jane Gardam
288 pages
June 2003
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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Flight of the Maidens, set in the summer of 1946, gives us an interesting portrait of down-trodden, war-shadowed Britain. It follows the different trajectories of three girls, each creating story a lovely tale about maturity and heartbreak. Hettie, smothered and tormented by her mother, escapes to study in the Lake District, while Una finds refuge and romance biking through the English countryside. Leiselotte, a German Jew separted from her parents during Kristalnacht, leaves England for the excess and wealth of America. While Hetty struggles with feelings toward her mother, Una experiences both a sensual and sexual awakening. Lieselotte, perhaps undergoing the greatest change, emerges after her American summer like a butterfly from a cocoon, coming to terms with her Jewish heritage.

Gardham successfully weaves these stories together, creating three tales, each magnificent on its own. The novel charts this liminal summer in a succint, overlapping narrative style. Even the secondary characters are well-wrought, particularly Hetty's mother.

While each girl seeks escape from her circumstances, each attains it in her own way. Gardham also fantastically reproduces the landscape of post-war England -- where the only hope for these characters is the prospect of educating themselves into a higher sphere.

© 2003 by Kristy Bowen for Curled Up With a Good Book

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